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BC must join Delaware, Rhode Island to hold climate polluters accountable

Thursday, September 10, 2020

VANCOUVER, BC, Musqueam, Squamish & Tsleil-Waututh Territories – Reacting to the ground-breaking lawsuit filed today by the State of Delaware against 31 fossil fuel companies, West Coast Environmental Law is calling on the government of British Columbia to follow suit to hold global fossil fuel companies accountable for their fair share of the province’s climate costs. The environmental law organization warns that BC taxpayers face tens of billions of dollars of costs due to climate change in coming years and that the government has an obligation to ensure that global fossil fuel companies pay their fair share of those costs.

“From almost $10 billion in costs to prepare the Lower Mainland for rising sea levels to billions spent fighting and preparing for wildfires, the climate costs that we already know about are huge. The costs we haven’t seen yet will be even larger,” said Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer. “They cannot be left entirely to taxpayers while the shareholders of the global fossil fuel industry pocket their profits.”

“BC led the country in holding Big Tobacco and opioid manufacturers accountable for the harm caused by their products – both enacting laws to set out the rules for lawsuits and filing lawsuits,” said Gage. “BC must take a similar approach to fossil fuel companies that knew in the 1960s that their products would harm our communities, but chose to undermine global action on climate change.”

Gage noted that when polluters pay for harm caused by their products, this gives them an incentive to reduce pollution and transition to cleaner technologies. “When fossil fuel companies pay their fair share, we’ll finally see real action on climate change.”

Delaware’s lawsuit is the second lawsuit filed by a U.S. State against fossil fuel companies for the costs of climate change, following a case launched in 2018 by Rhode Island. However, over 20 local governments in the U.S. have filed lawsuits of their own, including suits filed in the past two weeks by Charleston, South Carolina and Hoboken, New Jersey.

In July 2018, West Coast Environmental Law sent a letter, signed by over 50 community groups, calling on Premier Horgan to enact legislation confirming the right of BC’s communities to sue fossil fuel companies for a fair share of climate costs. Over 20 BC communities have written to global fossil fuel companies asking them to take responsibility for climate costs arising from their products. 

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For more information, please contact:

Andrew Gage | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law
250-412-9784, agage@wcel.org

Links for more information on lawsuits filed by: